GLOVERSVILLE - The congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of Gloversville will hold its last service Sunday after 148 years in the community.
The Session, a board of elders responsible for the mission and government of the church, voted last fall to recommend the congregation dissolve. In September 2011, the congregation, with 46 official members, voted and agreed to disband.
The Presbytery of Albany owns the church building and is working on plans for the property. The Presbytery serves about 70 churches and fellowships across 11 counties upstate and on the Vermont and New York border, according to its website.
The First Presbyterian Church of Gloversville, at 16 W. Fulton St., above, plans to close Sunday.
The Leader-Herald/Amanda Whistle
Attempts to reach General Presbytery the Rev. Cass L. Shaw by phone and e-mail were unsuccessful Tuesday.
When a Presbyterian church closes, the Presbytery forms an administrative commission that helps the congregation through the closing.
Dr. Earl S. Johnson Jr., retired pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Johnstown, is the moderator of the city congregation's administrative commission, which consists of five members.
Johnson said the commission, appointed by the Presbytery, has been working with the Session and congregation since March.
The commission consists of teaching elders, or pastors, and lay leaders, called ruling elders, from other churches within the Albany Presbytery.
In Fulton County, there are several Presbyterian congregations in areas including Johnstown, Northville and Mayfield.
"We just work with them in the area of the finances - closing down their accounts, securing the building after the congregation is dissolved on [Sunday]," Johnson said. "Whatever funds are left may be transferred to the Presbytery of Albany at the end of June."
Johnson said he's unsure whether the building will go on the market - a decision likely up to the Presbytery of Albany Board of Trustees.
"If we could use that building for another type of ministry, some kind of community service, we might keep it," Johnson said.
The building, located at 16 W. Fulton St., includes 13,090 square feet of gross floor area, according to county tax map data. The total assessment is listed at $580,600 for the brick structure with stained-glass windows.
The Rev. Kathleen Chesnut, who came on board in February 2010 to help the congregation make decisions about its future, said she hopes the dissolution will be more of a beginning than an end.
As part of the last service, scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday at the church, located on the corner of Bleecker and West Fulton streets, the city congregation will donate its belongings to two other nearby congregations that have experienced great loss.
In April 2011, lightning struck the Mayfield Central Presbyterian Church building's cast-iron bell, sparking a blaze that destroyed the nearly 200-year-old sanctuary and left its adjacent fellowship hall with enough smoke and water damage that church officials chose to demolish it in the fall.
In August 2011, the Schoharie congregation saw much of its belongings destroyed by flood damage from Tropical Storm Irene.
The city congregation's closing is a chance to provide some relief.
"Basically, we went through and inventoried our church belongings, and we're giving items to both of those congregations," Chestnut said.
Items such as the pastor's office furnishings, grand piano and hand bells will go to Mayfield. Other items such as chapel chairs, handbell music and kitchen tools will go to Schoharie.
"It's almost like we're dispersing who we are out into the community and sharing with the entire community," Chestnut said.
The First Congregational United Church of Christ on East Fulton Street will continue the First Presbyterian's food pantry, a service "that's been dear to the heart of the First Presbyterian Church," Chestnut said.
The First Congregational United Church of Christ was given the food in the pantry last Sunday.
"So during [Sunday's] service, we have a transfer of ministries giving something symbolizing these gifts to the three congregations," Chestnut said. "The offering that day will go to the three congregations to support other ministries."
Chestnut said she's expecting about 170 people so far to attend Sunday's afternoon service.
The church officially was organized Aug. 6, 1864, and the cornerstone of the church building, with a sanctuary that seats about 200, was laid July 4, 1865.
"They probably had several hundred [members] at one time. It gets to a point where financially it's not viable anymore," Johnson said. "You don't have enough money [to operate] a big building, so it'd be better for the church members to join other churches that are still operating."
Chesnut said the congregation seemed to feel dissolving was the most financially responsible option. She said they were closing with enough money left for the Presbytery to maintain the building.
"The Presbytery helped us weigh some options," Chestnut said. "We could have become a house church and let go of the building to worship in someone's house or a rented space. We could have merged with another congregation, but we decided to close responsibly."